Topic: Groundwater

Overview

Groundwater

Unlike California’s majestic rivers and massive dams and conveyance systems, groundwater is out of sight and underground, though no less plentiful. The state’s enormous cache of underground water is a great natural resource and has contributed to the state becoming the nation’s top agricultural producer and leader in high-tech industries.

Groundwater is also increasingly relied upon by growing cities and thirsty farms, and it plays an important role in the future sustainability of California’s overall water supply. In an average year, roughly 40 percent of California’s water supply comes from groundwater.

A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.

Aquafornia news The Brentwood Press

State and local groundwater sustainability efforts make progress

While high-profile surface-water initiatives like WaterFix and the Delta Conveyance Project grab most of the headlines pertaining to water management in the state, efforts to make significant changes to the way groundwater is utilized have been underway since 2014. Now, the state and the local water agencies are seeking public comment on documents related to the management of groundwater. In 2014, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed a three-bill legislative package collectively known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to better manage groundwater supplies over the long term.  

Aquafornia news University of California

Blog: A path toward clean drinking water for all Californians

California was the first U.S. state to legally recognize access to safe, clean and affordable water as a human right. But substantial parts of the state lack access to drinking water that meets those criteria. A new study published by the California State Water Board and supported by UCLA research identifies a risk for failure among a significant portion of the state’s small and medium-sized public water systems. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Editorial: If California is America’s climate leader, we’re all in trouble

As the latest evidence of extended drought and extreme wildfire danger confirms, California’s climate is changing quickly. Its policy on burning planet-warming fuels — not so much.  A state Senate bill to ban hydraulic fracturing and otherwise restrict oil and gas extraction died in its first committee Tuesday, with Gov. Gavin Newsom and three Democratic lawmakers withholding support. 

Aquafornia news The Santa Barbara Independent

New front in Santa Barbara County’s pot wars

Santa Barbara County’s most depleted water basin, the Cuyama Valley, is fast becoming the latest battleground in the fight over how — and whether — to address the negative impacts of the lucrative cannabis industry on farming and residential communities. The giant groundwater basin underlying this sparsely populated, heavily farmed, economically depressed valley is one of California’s 21 most critically over-drafted basins and the only one outside the Central Valley. 

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

West Marin water contamination prompts ranch inspections

The state plans to inspect three dairy ranches in the Point Reyes National Seashore after independent water quality tests conducted in nearby creeks and lagoons earlier this year found E. coli bacteria concentrations up to 40 times higher than state health standards. The San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board plans to inspect Kehoe Dairy, McClure Dairy and R&J McClelland Dairy, which are located near Kehoe Creek and waterways that flow into Abbotts Lagoon in the northern region of the national seashore. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Plan to ban California fracking falls short in Legislature

A far-reaching proposal to outlaw hydraulic fracturing and ban oil and gas wells from operating near homes, schools and healthcare facilities failed in the California Legislature on Tuesday, a major setback for progressive leaders who hail the state as the nation’s bellwether on environmental protection. Gov. Gavin Newsom in September called on state lawmakers to ban fracking and voiced his support for safety buffer zones around wells …

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California drinking water infrastructure at risk of failing

A new state analysis estimates a $4.6 billion funding gap for water system infrastructure needed to ensure Californians have access to safe and affordable drinking water. The State Water Resources Control Board this month released the first-ever drinking water needs assessment, showing that approximately 620 public water systems and 80,000 domestic wells are at-risk of failing to provide a sufficient amount of drinking water that meets basic health standards. 

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Aquafornia news Water Education Colorado

Blog: Colorado launches major new series of stream protections

Advocates, such as the Colorado Water Trust, a nonprofit that spearheaded the new approach, say the tools can be used as templates across other river basins, where older water rights are already spoken for. … Across Colorado nearly 40,000 miles of streams flow year-round and, as a result, have the potential to receive protection under the state’s Instream Flow Program. 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Last chance to register for next week’s Water 101 workshop

There’s just one week left to register for our Water 101 Workshop, which offers a primer on the things you need to know to understand California water. One of our most popular events, this once-a-year workshop will be held as an engaging online event on the afternoons of Thursday, April 22 and Friday, April 23.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Creating a place for nature in the San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley’s quest for groundwater sustainability will result in large amounts of irrigated agricultural lands being retired. A new book explores how some of these lands could be restored to natural areas that bring multiple benefits. We talked to Scott Butterfield, a senior scientist at The Nature Conservancy and one of the book’s editors, about this vision.

Aquafornia news Northcoast Environmental Center

News release: NEC sues Humboldt County over Rolling Meadow Ranch cannabis project

CITIZENS for a SUSTAINABLE HUMBOLDT (CSH) and the NORTHCOAST ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER (NEC) have filed a lawsuit in the Humboldt County Superior Court, with claims under the California Environmental Quality, the State Planning and Zoning Law, and other laws, challenging the environmental review and permits approved by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.

Aquafornia news AgAlert

Opinion: Failure to prepare deepens the pain from dry years

It’s that time of year, when we find out it’s that kind of year. We appear at the doorstep of a “critically dry year,” and most reservoir levels are significantly below average. Those conditions bring painfully to mind the awful drought years of 2014 and 2015, and threaten water supplies for California farms and cities, and for the protected fish species that must also get by in these lean years.
-Written by Danny Merkley, director of water resources, and Chris Scheuring, senior counsel for the California Farm Bureau.

Aquafornia news The Mercury News

Suisun Marsh drilling plan re-evaluated after backlash

The Suisun Marsh — known as the largest swath of contiguous wetlands on the West Coast and a haven for thousands of migrating waterfowl — has become the Bay Area’s latest battleground between fossil fuel producers and environmentalists hellbent on fighting climate change. A Brentwood company, Sunset Exploration Inc., announced in January it wants to explore for natural gas by drilling a section of the 116,000-acre marshland about 9 miles southwest of Suisun City in an area known as Hunter’s Point, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Aquafornia news State Water Resources Control Board

News release: Report offers first in-depth picture of California water systems struggling to provide safe drinking water

The State Water Resources Control Board announced the completion of its first-ever comprehensive look at California water systems that are struggling to provide safe drinking water to communities and how to help them. With criteria for the state’s Human Right to Water list recently expanded, the assessment identifies both failing water systems and those at risk of failing, offering the most indepth view of long-term drinking water safety the state has ever had.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Increasing groundwater salinity changes water and crop management over long timescales

Salinity has often become a major limit for irrigated agriculture in semi-arid regions, from ancient Mesopotamia to parts of California today. A previous blog post showed that conjunctive use with more saline groundwater can differ fundamentally from freshwater aquifers. Higher salinity limits groundwater use for irrigation during dry years, when less surface water is available to dilute groundwater salinity, and increases aquifer pumping in wetter years to avoid water-logging. Brackish groundwater can no longer serves as drought storage, but becomes a supplemental water supply in all years, limited by availability of fresh surface water for diluting salts. This greatly reduces groundwater’s ability to support permanent crops and increases variability in annual crop acreage across different water years, thus reducing profit.

Aquafornia news Grist

7 million Californians live near oil and gas wells. This bill could change that

Despite its green reputation, California has a big fossil fuel problem on its hands: neighborhood oil and gas drilling. In California, there’s nothing preventing frackers or drillers from setting up shop right next to your home, school, or hospital — and indeed, this is the reality for 7.4 million Californians currently living within 1 mile of oil and gas drilling operations, who are disproportionately non-white and low-income. Now, a new state bill called S.B. 467, slated for a hearing in the California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water on Tuesday, may reshape the lives of frontline communities by eliminating fracking and instituting mandatory buffer zones between oil and gas extraction and places where Californians live, work, and study. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Business Journal

Cadiz faces new suit over water pipeline

Another legal challenge has been launched against a project by downtown-based water infrastructure company Cadiz Inc. to pump and transport water from its desert aquifer to connect with existing water conveyance systems. This latest lawsuit was filed March 23 against the Bureau of Land Management by the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice and the Sierra Club. It asks the federal court to overturn a December BLM decision to approve the conversion of an idle oil and gas pipeline to carry water from Cadiz’s desert aquifer. Cadiz is not a direct party to the lawsuit but would be impacted by a decision resulting from the suit. The filing marks the third decade in which Cadiz’ water transfer plan has faced legal challenges from environmental groups. 

Aquafornia news USC Viterbi School Of Engineering

Blog: Saving clean drinking water…with math!

Nearly every resident of California has experienced an earthquake. Even the youngest schoolchildren have the safety procedure drilled into them: duck under a table, hold on, and pray that it’s only a small one. Barring a truly catastrophic quake, the situation usually ends there. You go on with your day as if nothing had happened, the near catastrophe completely forgotten. Most people assume that the danger ends after the last remnants of the tremor share the ground. But there is a much more sinister side effect of earthquakes that affects daily life around California and much of the rest of the world: contaminating the groundwater supply. 

Aquafornia news Capital and Main

Blog: California is greenlighting oil wells linked to groundwater pollution

Throughout 2020 and early 2021, California issued more than 300 permits to oil and gas companies for new underground injection wells — an intensive form of oil production and wastewater disposal. But the actual number of new injection wells is likely higher, owing to the state’s opaque approval process that has drawn scrutiny from auditors and environmentalists. Some of these undercounted wells may be polluting groundwater used for public drinking and agricultural purposes, according to regulatory filings reviewed by Capital & Main. The impact of injection wells on groundwater in California is understudied, regulators say. 

Aquafornia news UC San Diego News Center

New research: Scientists map “pulse” of groundwater flow through California’s Central Valley

Groundwater is a key resource for water users in California’s Central Valley, a major agricultural hub with an economic output of tens of billions of dollars annually. Surface deformation in the Central Valley has long been linked to changes in groundwater storage, but the timing and movement of water flow beneath the surface has been poorly understood due to a lack of reliable data. Now, for the first time, scientists at the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and School of Global Policy and Strategy, as well as the U.S. Geological Survey are using advanced satellite data to map the “pulse” of groundwater flow through the San Joaquin Valley, the southern portion of the Central Valley.

Aquafornia news AgAlert

Markets, water availability prove key in land values

Despite market unknowns created by the pandemic and lower commodity prices, California agricultural land values remained largely stable, an indication buyers have confidence in the long-term land market in the state: This was a key takeaway from a virtual business conference held by the California Chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. The conference also discussed impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act on California land values. Even though record supplies of the state’s highest-value crops led to lower prices for farmers last year, appraisers said the softer prices also helped move those products. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: California needs comprehensive groundwater management

While California’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act promised comprehensive protection of the state’s groundwater, significant gaps remain in its coverage.  The Department of Water Resources now has an opportunity to reduce or eliminate those gaps and should seize the moment. We know all Californians will experience another year of water shortages and warmer, drier conditions that will require conservation and which are likely to fuel destructive wildfires in our forests and around our communities. We are all in this together. Groundwater is critical for California, particularly in dry years when it provides up to 60% of the water supply for farms and people. 
-Written by Jeanette Howard, director of The Nature Conservancy’s freshwater science team; Melissa M. Rohde, a groundwater scientist at The Nature Conservancy; and Barton H. Thompson, senior fellow of the Woods Institute for the Environment, and faculty director of Water in the West at Stanford University.

Aquafornia news The Hill

Third-driest year reported in California

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has marked 2021 as the third-driest water year, a period marked from October to March, on record for the Golden State, potentially setting up another deadly wildfire season after last year’s record setting blazes. The department’s annual snow survey released this month recorded precipitation levels at 50 percent the annual average for the water year.  The dry conditions can also be seen in the state’s water supply, with the department reporting that California’s major reservoirs are at just 50 percent of overall capacity.

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Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Nevada farmers and conservationists balk at “water banking,” an idea also being weighed in Colorado

Rural water users are panicking over a proposal to create a market for the sale and purchase of water rights in Nevada, unconvinced by arguments that the concept would encourage conservation. Lawmakers on Monday weighed whether so-called “water banking” would be preferable to prevailing water law doctrines that govern surface and groundwater rights disputes in the driest state in the U.S. A legislative hearing about two proposals to allow water rights holders to sell their entitlements pitted state water bureaucrats against a coalition of farmers, conservationists and rural officials. 

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: California is on the brink of drought – again. Is it ready?

California is at the edge of another protracted drought, just a few years after one of the worst dry spells in state history left poor and rural communities without well water, triggered major water restrictions in cities, forced farmers to idle their fields, killed millions of trees, and fueled devastating megafires. … Just four years since the state’s last drought emergency, experts and advocates say the state isn’t ready to cope with what could be months and possibly years of drought to come.

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Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Newsom California fracking ban vision exceeds original scope

When Gov. Gavin Newsom voiced his support last year for a ban on hydraulic fracturing by oil and gas companies, an effort long fought by the industry and trade unions alike, he gave Democrats a green light to send him legislation to achieve that goal as they saw fit. But the crackdown on oil and gas production under consideration by the California Legislature is much wider in scope than the plan requested by the governor, who may get more than he bargained for as he shoulders the pressures of carrying out the state’s COVID-19 pandemic response while battling a looming recall election. The ambitious proposal would outlaw hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and a series of other oil extraction methods reviled by environmental activists. 

Aquafornia news ABC7 San Francisco

California Dreaming: Farmers, scientists sustainably getting by with less water

Water covers 71% of the earth’s surface, but only about 3% percent of it is fresh water, making it the planet’s most precious resource. But what do you do when water is in danger of going dry? California’s Central Valley is no stranger to drought, and because of that, farmers and scientists are joining forces to figure out how to get by with less.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Fact sheet: Access to safe drinking water

Although most residents have safe drinking water, more than 250 water systems serving 900,000 people were out of compliance with drinking water standards in 2020. This is a chronic issue for some systems; more than 170 have been out of compliance for three or more years. More than half of these noncompliant systems are in the San Joaquin Valley—California’s largest farming region and home to a third of the state’s low-income communities. Some tribal water systems face similar challenges. Data are lacking on water quality provided by roughly 1,500 very small, county-regulated water systems and more than 350,000 domestic wells, but some of these supplies may have chronic issues as well.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Orange County Water District works to clean polluted groundwater from decades of manufacturing

Underneath Orange County is a hidden arterial highway that groundwater moves through before eventually finding its way into homes. More than 70% of the water served in Orange County is from groundwater. But some of that water has become contaminated from industrial manufacturing when harmful chemicals that weren’t properly disposed of seeped down into the ground. … The Orange County Water District is tasked with determining the extent of the pollution, and containing it before more drinking water wells need to be shut down and contaminants spread to the principal aquifer, which is directly pumped by production wells for drinking water.

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Aquafornia news Galt Herald

Groundwater status, plan discussed at meeting

Seven agencies that have been working together to sustain the groundwater in the Cosumnes Subbasin, which includes the communities of Galt, Herald, Wilton and Rancho Murieta South, held a workshop March 24. The presentation was intended to help residents understand how groundwater will be used in the next two decades in the Cosumnes Subbasin. The group has until Jan. 31, 2022 to submit its plan to the state on how it intends to meet its target of replacing 20,000-acre feet per year (AFY) in underground basins called aquifers to sustain the groundwater. One of the takeaways from meeting is the plan will cost $2.25 million in the early years. 

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Judge likely to advance PG&E suit over century-old pollution

Rejecting arguments that a utility can’t be sued over century-old pollution, a federal judge signaled Wednesday that he will likely advance a lawsuit seeking to hold Pacific Gas and Electric liable for contamination that occurred more than 100 years ago. … [Plaintiff and San Francisco resident Dan] Clarke claimed groundwater contamination stemming from the site of PG&E’s former gas plant “is intermittently discharged into the bay.” He said seasonal, tidal and other factors result in groundwater passing the former plant site and intermixing with contaminants before leaking into the San Francisco Bay.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Friday Top of the Scroll: Drought is back. But Southern California faces less pain than Northern California

Drought is returning to California as a second, consecutive parched winter draws to a close in the usually wet north, leaving the state’s major reservoirs half empty. But this latest period of prolonged dryness will probably play out very differently across this vast state. In Northern California, areas dependent on local supplies, such as Sonoma County, could be the hardest-hit. Central Valley growers have been told of steep cuts to upcoming water deliveries. Environmentalists too are warning of grave harm to native fish. Yet, hundreds of miles to the south, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California reports record amounts of reserves — enough to carry the state’s most populous region through this year and even next.

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Aquafornia news University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources

Report: The first SGMA groundwater market is trading – The importance of good design and the risks of getting it wrong

A groundwater market, which caps total pumping within one or more basins, allocates portions of the total to individual users and allows users to buy and sell groundwater under the total cap, is a promising tool for basins implementing California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). … [G]roundwater markets can be a useful tool for achieving basin sustainability, but they are not a good fit for every basin or groundwater sustainability agency (GSA). … The Fox Canyon groundwater market benefitted from the four enabling conditions (water scarcity, fixed allocations, agricultural stakeholder support, and capacity and funding) described below.

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Aquafornia news Stanford University and The Nature Conservancy

Report: Mind the Gaps: The case for truly comprehensive sustainable groundwater management

On its face, SGMA appears to promise comprehensive groundwater management. The legislature sought to “provide for the sustainable management of groundwater basins”. SGMA therefore “applies to all groundwater basins in the state”…. DWR has ranked only 18 percent (94 out of 515) of Bulletin 118 groundwater basins as medium or high priority, although these basins account for virtually all of current groundwater pumping in the state. The result is a fragmented regulatory system that leaves significant gaps in the sustainable management of California’s groundwater.

Aquafornia news KAWC

When water is scarce, some researchers go underground to find out why

When it comes to water in the West, a lot of it is visible. Snow stacks up high in the mountains then eventually melts and flows down into valleys. It’s easy to see how heavy rains and rushing rivers translate into an abundance of available water. But another important factor of water availability is much harder to see. Beneath the surface, the amount of moisture held in the ground can play a big role in how much water makes it down to rivers and reservoirs – and eventually into the pipes that feed homes and businesses. Elise Osenga is a community science manager for the Aspen Global Change Institute – a nonprofit focused on expanding scientific understanding of climate change. 

Aquafornia news Arizona Public Media

No movement on groundwater protection bills

Arizona’s 1980 Groundwater Management Act established pumping regulations in the state’s most populous areas but set no such limits on rural parts of the state. In recent years, some rural areas have come under increased pressure from agricultural pumping that has dropped groundwater levels dramatically. … Lawmakers introduced several bills in the current legislative session to regulate or provide more options for managing the state’s groundwater. One would have banned most new wells in the Upper San Pedro and Verde Valley river basins. Another would have set spacing limits for new wells in areas that are overdrawn. Another, introduced by Rep. Regina Cobb of Kingman, would have given county supervisors the power to establish groundwater limits or regulations in their area. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Estuary Magazine

Beavers make good neighbors

Much like when tech money reshapes an historical neighborhood, a beaver’s move downtown can cause the locals to worry. In Napa, the animals’ sprawling waterfront complexes create worrying pools along the riverbank, while the native cottonwoods are whittled down and threaten landowners’ roofs. It seems destined that two species known for their environmental engineering would struggle to live in unison. However, municipalities like Napa and Martinez in Contra Costa County have learned to live with their beavers, and the upcoming California Beaver Summit aims to set the record straight.

Aquafornia news Environmental Defense Fund

Blog: Report provides guidance on repurposing California farmland to benefit water, landowners, communities and wildlife

Over the coming decades, California’s San Joaquin Valley will transition to sustainable groundwater management under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), ensuring reliable groundwater supplies for generations to come. Sustainable groundwater management and a changing climate will inevitably affect how land is used on a sweeping scale. By some estimates, the amount of farmland that will have to be taken out of production to balance groundwater demand and supply is equivalent to the size of Yosemite National Park — a transition that could serve a huge blow to the agricultural economy, rural communities and the environment. 

Aquafornia news O’Melveny

Blog: California Court of Appeal upholds subordination of dormant groundwater rights

Last week, the Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District of California issued a long-awaited decision in the Antelope Valley Groundwater Cases, resolving a dispute more than two decades in the making. The case adjudicated groundwater rights in the Antelope Valley Adjudication Area (AVAA) in northern Los Angeles County and southeast Kern County. The adjudication, which commenced in 1999, involved private water suppliers, public agencies, the federal government, and overlying landowners who pump water for agricultural, industrial, commercial, and domestic uses. Although currently unpublished, the court’s opinion illustrates several important developments in California groundwater law.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Monday Top of the Scroll: California weighs changes for new water rights permits in response to a warmer and drier climate

As California’s seasons become warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of the state’s water supply. A report by the State Water Resources Control Board recommends that new water rights permits be tailored to California’s increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable enough to ensure water exists to meet an applicant’s demand.

Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

St. Helena set to impose penalties for exceeding water rations

The city is getting ready to impose new penalties for water customers who exceed their rations during St. Helena’s Phase II water emergency. On Tuesday the City Council told staff to bring the recommended penalties back for adoption at the April 13 council meeting. The new penalties would take effect May 1. Meanwhile, city officials will develop clear conservation targets and look at adjusting the city’s water management policies, including how water allocations are calculated.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Water Rights Law By Gary Pitzer

California Weighs Changes for New Water Rights Permits in Response to a Warmer and Drier Climate
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Water Board report recommends aligning new water rights to an upended hydrology

The American River in Sacramento in 2014 shows the effects of the 2012-2016 drought. Climate change is expected to result in more frequent and intense droughts and floods. As California’s seasons become warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of the state’s water supply.

A report by the State Water Resources Control Board recommends that new water rights permits be tailored to California’s increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable enough to ensure water exists to meet an applicant’s demand. And it warns that the increasingly whiplash nature of California’s changing climate could require existing rights holders to curtail diversions more often and in more watersheds — or open opportunities to grab more water in climate-induced floods.

Aquafornia news Science News

Simple structures can help streams survive wildfires and drought

Many of the wetlands in the western United States have disappeared since the 1700s. California has lost an astonishing 90 percent of its wetlands, which includes streamsides, wet meadows and ponds. In Nevada, Idaho and Colorado, more than 50 percent of wetlands have vanished. Precious wet habitats now make up just 2 percent of the arid West — and those remaining wet places are struggling. Nearly half of U.S. streams are in poor condition, unable to fully sustain wildlife and people, says Jeremy Maestas, a sagebrush ecosystem specialist with the NRCS who organized that workshop on Wilde’s ranch in 2016. As communities in the American West face increasing water shortages, more frequent and larger wildfires and unpredictable floods, restoring ailing waterways is becoming a necessity.

Aquafornia news AgNet West

Blog: SGMA video series now available in three languages

The Water and Land Use Series of videos is now available in Hmong as well as English and Spanish. The videos provide insight on how the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is taking shape. PhD Candidate at UC Merced, Vicky Espinoza has been working on the videos for several months. The series is available on the YouTube Channel CaliWaterAg. The goal of the project has been to make SGMA information more accessible and encourage more engagement from community members.

Aquafornia news Best Best & Krieger

Blog: Appellate decisions limiting groundwater pumping in an overdrafted basin

A California Court of Appeal recently issued two opinions affirming a physical solution limiting the right to pump groundwater by a landowner who has never pumped from the groundwater basin or who has not established the amount or reasonableness of pumping. A landowner filed the underlying lawsuit in 1999 to quiet title to its claimed superior groundwater rights in a groundwater basin that had been in a state of overdraft for decades. The lawsuit became a comprehensive groundwater adjudication involving approximately 70,000 landowners in the Antelope Valley area of California, including two separate classes and the United States.

Aquafornia news Water Foundation

Blog: Water solutions are climate adaptation solutions

Most Californians rely on groundwater in some way, through the kitchen faucet, when buying food, or at a green local park to relax and recreate. Those underground aquifers are even more important during droughts. In California’s Southern San Joaquin Valley, groundwater pumping more than tripled in the 2012-2016 drought to make up for lost rain. But that over-pumping comes at a cost, causing land to sink as much as two feet a year, damaging bridges, roads, and houses, and drying up drinking water wells and rivers. The people and places most hurt are the ones without the money to drill down to find diminishing groundwater.

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn

Blog: Water law alert – Groundwater well permitting, Yampa River basin

As a result of increasing demand for water, exacerbated by the decades-long drought in the Colorado River system, the Colorado State Engineer is considering a proposal that would impose stricter limitations on the permitting of new groundwater wells in the Yampa River Basin upstream of where the Yampa River meets the Little Snake River.  The Yampa River flows west from its headwaters near Steamboat Springs, in northwest Colorado.  After it is joined by the Little Snake River, it flows to meet the Green River near the Colorado-Utah state line.  From there, the Green River flows south as a major tributary of the Colorado River.

Aquafornia news County of Sonoma

News release: Opportunity for Santa Rosa plain groundwater users to view correct information

Starting Monday, March 22, groundwater users who own property in the Santa Rosa Plain area will have an opportunity to review and update their water use information. The new Groundwater User Information Data Exchange (GUIDE) Program is being launched by the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) to improve understanding of how groundwater is used, and the number and types of water wells in the Santa Rosa Plain basin.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Environmental groups challenge Trump’s decision to lease federal land for fracking

A new lawsuit brought by environmental groups against the Bureau of Land Management seeks to rescind leases for seven parcels of federal land auctioned to energy companies in the waning days of the Trump administration. They are the first federal land oil and gas leases of their kind to be sold in nearly a decade and would open vast tracts to oil exploration and fracking. The land in question sits in California’s Central Valley, an agricultural region that already experiences some of the worst air and water quality in the country.

Aquafornia news Beyond Pesticides

Blog: Threatened waters what the science shows

According to USGS, 56 percent of streams sampled had one or more pesticides in water that exceeded at least one aquatic-life federal standard. Many of these pesticides are also linked to a range of human and environmental health effects including cancer, birth defects, neurological and reproductive health impacts. … [A] report released by UC Davis examined the the four-county Tulare Lake Basin and the Monterey County portion of the Salinas Valley. The study found that … agricultural fertilizers and animal wastes applied to cropland are by far the largest regional sources of nitrate in groundwater; nitrate loading reductions are possible, some at modest cost. Large reductions of nitrate loads to groundwater can have substantial economic cost…

Aquafornia news Stanford Water in the West

Blog: America’s drinking water future

In 2020 wildfires ravaged more than 10 million acres of land across California, Oregon and Washington, making it the largest fire season in modern history. Across the country, hurricanes over Atlantic waters yielded a record-breaking number of storms. While two very different kinds of natural disasters, scientists say they were spurred by a common catalyst – climate change – and that both also threaten drinking water supplies. As the nation already wrestles with water shortages, contamination and aging infrastructure, experts warn more frequent supercharged climate-induced events will exacerbate the pressing issue of safe drinking water.

Aquafornia news Civil Eats

20 hotspots to start fixing nitrogen pollution in agriculture

Nitrogen pollution is one of agriculture’s biggest and most intractable problems. Crops can’t grow without the critical nutrient, and because sources of nitrogen are easy to come by—synthetic fertilizer is cheap and manure from large animal agriculture operations is plentiful—farmers often apply too much, to try to ensure the highest yields. Because plants can’t use it all, the excess makes its way into groundwater and washes into waterways where it contaminates drinking water and creates vast dead zones in oceans and lakes. … California’s largest hotspot unsurprisingly includes 21 counties that cover the Central Valley, America’s produce capital.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

‘Hasty’ California oil and gas lease sale draws suit against BLM

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management decided to sell oil and gas leases on public land in California for the first time in nearly a decade without taking a hard look at the environmental and public health impacts, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in a federal court in the state. The agency’s “hasty” environmental review ignored comments from experts and failed to consider evidence showing fracking could pollute already scarce groundwater resources, environmental groups say in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California filing. The decision violated the National Environmental Policy Act …

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Aquafornia news Patch, San Jose Spotlight

San Jose pumps the brakes on Valley Water water-recycling plan

In an effort to address drought and increase local groundwater supply, the Santa Clara County Valley Water District is fast-tracking a plan to purify and recycle more water in San Jose. … But city elected leaders — concerned for the environment and limited staff resources due to COVID-19 — are pumping the brakes and want more time to negotiate. Councilmembers met Friday with Valley Water’s board of directors for a special meeting to hash out the issue.

Aquafornia news U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

News release: US Forest Service closes 77 pollution-causing cesspools

Under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the USDA Forest Service closed 77 large-capacity cesspools (LCCs) it operated in Arizona and California. The Forest Service met the deadlines set forth in the agreement and closed the cesspools, which can be sources of harmful water pollution, in 11 national forests across the two states. … Cesspools collect and release untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater and surface waters that are sources of drinking water. 

Aquafornia news The Pioneer

The bane of water guzzling agriculture

[A] study has ascertained that indiscriminate exploitation of groundwater is resulting in sinking of land worldwide. … According to a report by The Guardian, countries like India, China and Mexico are rapidly draining groundwater to meet their food demands. Agriculture is at the forefront of excessive exploitation of groundwater. … In California, USA, where 80% of pure water is used for irrigation of cultivated crops, about one million acres of agricultural land is used for growing alfalfa as a fodder crop, which is exported to China. An article in the New York Times has expressed concern that the US exports one billion gallons of water to China as alfalfa per year.

Aquafornia news Desert Sun and ProPublica

California oil regulator CalGEM struggles with enforcement, fines

Tucked out of sight, oil wells run thousands of feet deep, tapping thick crude from one of California’s many urban oil fields. And in the fall of 2019, investigators with the state’s oil agency flagged trouble. Nasco Petroleum was injecting huge amounts of water into well bores above the legal pressure limits, aiming to push more crude out of the aging downtown field. … The wells, investigators wrote in a report to a manager, posed “immediate” risks to drinking water aquifers.

Aquafornia news Westlands Water District

News release: Westlands Water District awarded $1.6 million Watersmart Grant from U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has announced that Westlands Water District was awarded a $1,609,000 grant from Reclamation’s WaterSMART Fiscal Year 2021 Water and Energy Efficiency Grant Program.  The grant was awarded to fund the District’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Project, which will retrofit 760 manually read groundwater well meters with advanced, automated metering devices that can transmit data over a regional network. By ensuring even greater water metering precision and eliminating the need to manually read the meters, the project is expected to save nearly 103 billion gallons of water and reduce 5.3 metric tons of carbon emission over 20 years.

Aquafornia news West Side Index & Gustine Press-Standard

Groundwater recharge project will bank water for future use

Two local water agencies are moving forward with plans to fully develop a groundwater banking project near Newman. The groundwater recharge project has exceeded expectations in pilot studies, said Jarrett Martin, general manager of the Central California Irrigation District and Anthea Hansen, general manager of the Del Puerto Water District. They said plans are in the works to expand the 20-acre pilot project to an 80-acre recharge zone. Martin said the two agencies have been awarded grants totaling $6.4 million to expand the recharge project to its full buildout, which is envisioned at 80 acres.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Students find saving water ‘elementary’

When a region’s groundwater is critically depleted and its dirt as hard as a frying pan, how do you refill the aquifer? Ask a fifth grader. Actually, ask the fifth and sixth grade combination class at Bakersfield’s Munsey Elementary School taught by Barbara Elrod. Elrod’s students discovered a pretty cool way to both conserve water and recharge aquifers through “grey water.” That’s water from sinks, showers and washing machines. Turns out most of that water has soap in it and soap is a surfactant. 

Aquafornia news Santa Cruz Sentinel

Next phase of construction green-lit on Pure Water Soquel project

The construction of 8 miles of water pipeline that will be integral to the Pure Water Soquel project, was approved by Soquel Creek Water District Board of Directors this week. The Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Basin, from which at least 50,000 residents depend on for drinking water, has been deemed critically depleted by the state. Years of intensive pumping for agriculture and drinking water has drawn out more water from the aquifer than is being replenished naturally by rainwater. That’s led to seawater seeping into underground storage and wells. The Pure Water project aims to bolster groundwater levels in the aquifer, and prevent seawater contamination, which has already been detected in some areas.

Aquafornia news Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard

Blog: California’s largest groundwater rights judgment affirmed

After 22 years of litigation, a California appellate court has affirmed a trial court judgment defining groundwater pumping rights for thousands of landowners plus cities, water districts and Edwards Air Force Base in the Antelope Valley desert north of Los Angeles. The March 16, 2021 opinion by the Fifth District Court of Appeal is one of three recent opinions rejecting challenges to a 2015 trial court judgment declaring groundwater rights and imposing a “physical solution” to reduce pumping and to ensure sustainability of the Antelope Valley’s largest single source of water supply.

Aquafornia news Law360

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California appeals court limits groundwater pumping rights

California landowners who haven’t been continuously pumping from a depleted groundwater basin have lower priority rights compared with entities that have continually pumped in recent decades, a California state appeals court has said in a first-of-its-kind ruling. 

Aquafornia news The Mercury News

Coyote Valley: $16 million deals preserve San Jose open space

In the latest effort to protect Coyote Valley, a Palo Alto environmental group has closed three deals totaling $16.5 million to purchase 331 acres in the scenic expanse of rural land on San Jose’s southern edges … The three properties purchased in the most recent deals, left undeveloped, also will be used to provide natural flood protection for downtown San Jose. The idea is that when Coyote Creek is flooding, as it did in 2017, causing $100 million in damage, its waters can be deliberately spread over the open area to seep into the groundwater table instead of all rushing downtown into neighborhoods.

Aquafornia news U.S. Geological Survey

News release: Drought may lead to elevated levels of naturally occurring arsenic in private domestic wells

An estimated 4.1 million people in the lower 48 states are potentially exposed to arsenic levels that exceed EPA’s drinking water standards A new U.S. Geological Survey study highlights the importance of homeowners testing their well water to ensure it is safe for consumption, particularly in drought-prone areas. … The states with the largest populations facing elevated arsenic levels in private domestic well water during the simulated drought conditions are Ohio (approximately 374,000 people), Michigan (320,000 people), Indiana (267,000 people), Texas (200,000 people) and California (196,000 people).

Aquafornia news EurekAlert!

New research: Losing rivers

The interplay between surface water and groundwater is often overlooked by those who use this vital resource due to the difficulty of studying it. Assistant professors Scott Jasechko and Debra Perrone, of UC Santa Barbara, and their colleagues leveraged their enormous database of groundwater measurements to investigate the interaction between these related resources. Their results, published in Nature, indicate that many more rivers across the United States may be leaking water into the ground than previously realized.

Aquafornia news WaterWorld

Kiewit-Stantec team breaks ground on Los Angeles groundwater remediation projects

The Kiewit-Stantec design-build team recently broke ground on two multi-year projects that together total $400 million and will help remediate water from the San Fernando Valley Groundwater Basin (SFB) for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). The SFB covers 226 square miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The new state-of-the-art facilities at the North Hollywood Central Response Action Treatment Facility and Tujunga Well Field Response Action Treatment Facility will address historical groundwater contamination from post WWII and cold-war era industrial operations in the area. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

New director appointed to Kern County Water Agency

Longtime family farmer Laura Cattani was appointed to the board of the powerful Kern County Water Agency during a special meeting on Monday. She is the second woman to serve on the board of directors in the 60-year history of the agency. Cattani will bring much needed diversity to the board, several directors said during Monday’s meeting, not only because she’s a woman, but also for her age. Cattani is 39.

Aquafornia news The Telegraph

Scrapped Vegas pipeline plan looms amid swamp cedar debate

The shadow of a controversial plan to pipe groundwater from rural Nevada to Las Vegas looms as state lawmakers weigh two proposals to protect groves of swamp cedar trees considered sacred on Monday. Until last year when the Southern Nevada Water Authority decided to “indefinitely defer” its pursuit of permits, the trees were caught in the crossfire of fights over development and conservation.

Aquafornia news The Confluence

Blog: From the ground up – climate change and environmental justice in California

As a scholar, my work is situated at the intersection of climate change, public health, and public policy. I am an interdisciplinary researcher, and my interests are centered on environmental justice….During California’s last extreme drought, I was doing my field work and visited East Porterville, which was ground zero for how water injustice was hitting migrant communities, particularly undocumented Latino migrants. They had very little water, and what they had was often contaminated.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

PG&E settles lawsuit over century-old gas plant pollution

Pacific Gas and Electric will pay to remove soil possibly tainted by century-old gas plants and investigate groundwater contamination in a San Francisco shoreline area under the terms of a deal announced Monday. The agreement represents the third and final settlement reached in a lawsuit filed in 2014 over pollution from manufactured gas plants operated by PG&E in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Under the deal entered Monday, PG&E will fund a study on how to remove or mitigate contamination from an underground storage tank on the former site of its North Beach gas plant, which stopped operating after it was damaged in the Great Earthquake of 1906.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Opinion: Dry year intensifies focus on California groundwater

Groundwater aquifers are best understood and managed locally; therefore, the key to successfully implementing SGMA lies in maintaining local control, something Farm Bureau vigorously advocates. In addition, we have stressed that to reduce dependence on groundwater, we must expand surface water storage and recharge our groundwater aquifers when excess water is available….Unless March somehow makes up for the lack of rain and snow thus far this winter, we could see an increased dependence on groundwater this growing season.

Related articles: 

Other Event

Online Short Course: Introduction to Groundwater, Watersheds and Groundwater Sustainability Plans

This online short course offered through UC Davis and other organizations will be held May 6, 13, 20, 27, and June 3 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. PDT with Q&A sessions from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. PDT. It will review the fundamental principles of groundwater and watershed hydrology, water budgets, water quality, and water law and regulation in an intuitive, highly accessible fashion.

Through real world examples, participants learn about the most common tools for measuring, monitoring, and assessing groundwater and surface water resources. The course will then review the key steps and elements of planning for groundwater sustainability. The Water Education Foundation is a cooperating organization for this online course.

To register, click here.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Finding a balance between supply and demand to get to groundwater sustainability

The San Joaquin Valley has begun to grapple with implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Figuring out the math of balancing water supply and demand in ways that cause the least economic harm to farmers and local economies is challenging, and difficult tradeoffs are inevitable. We talked with Emmy Cattani, a fifth-generation farmer from Kern County, about some options.

Aquafornia news Ventura County Star

Opinion: Regulatory failures could spell disaster for county’s farms, groundwater

It was a chilly morning in 2010 when Oxnard farmworkers, tending to their broccoli crops, discovered an oily sheen floating on their irrigation water. In a nearby oilfield, a tank of diluent — a carcinogenic mix of benzene, toluene, and diesel — had sprung a leak. … A decade later, we still face the same dangers. Right in the heart of our prime farmland, which infuses Ventura County with over two billion dollars annually. We’re risking that vital economy for the dregs: Tar Sands becomes bunker fuel and asphalt — not gasoline. And annually, Tar Sands extraction in Oxnard could use up approximately 12 Olympic-size swimming pools worth of drinkable water — just to make steam.
-Written by Liz Beall, executive director of Climate First: Replacing Oil and Gas. 

Aquafornia news The Union

Editorial: Do you live on top of the Idaho-Maryland Mine?

Many people in Grass Valley, Calif., live and work over the Idaho-Maryland Mine without realizing it. A lot of information about the location of the two surface sites and the project features has been circulated, but not much has been shared about the sheer size of the project underground and how that may affect us. … Wells are of even greater concern. Due to dewatering of the mine, there will be lowering of the ground water levels in the area. 

Aquafornia news Vox

Drought in California – Why 77 percent of the Western US is abnormally dry

The Western US is in the midst of yet another dangerous dry spell. The drought has been building over the past year, and since November, a greater stretch of the West has been in the most severe category of drought than at any time in the 20 years that the National Drought Mitigation Center has been keeping records. … Ryan Jensen saw the impacts of California’s last major drought firsthand while working for the Community Water Center in the San Joaquin Valley. When residential wells ran dry, students had to shower in their school locker rooms. To keep toilets running, some rural households relied on hoses slung over fences from their neighbors.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

News release: DWR seeks public comment on draft California’s groundwater – Update 2020: Publication provides communities with information about their groundwater

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) released the draft California’s Groundwater – Update 2020, containing information on the condition of the state’s groundwater, which is especially important as California faces a critically dry water year. DWR encourages community members and water managers to review the publication and provide input.

Related article:

Aquafornia news The Revelator

Blog: Stormwater could become an important water source — if we stopped ignoring it

Climate change and other environmental pressures are already putting the pinch on water resources in California, the Southwest and other arid parts of the world. Over-tapped groundwater, rivers and lakes are forcing water managers to find new supplies. Some of these can be costly, like treating wastewater for drinking water. Or they can come with a hefty price tag and outsized environmental footprint, like desalination or new dams. There’s another option on the table, though: stormwater. If we do the accounting right, runoff from precipitation is a cost-effective supplementary water resource, experts say. 

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Friday Top of the Scroll: Groups sue over California county’s plan to drill oil wells

Environmental and community groups have sued a California county after the prime oil-drilling region approved a plan to fast-track thousands of new wells in a state that’s positioned itself as a leader in combating climate change. The Kern County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved a revised ordinance that could lead to approval of more than 40,000 new oil and gas wells over roughly 15 years. … The oil and gas industry faces challenges from California lawmakers and environmental groups for creating air and water pollution and contributing to climate change.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Celebrating National Groundwater Awareness Week in the Sacramento Valley

As we celebrate National Groundwater Awareness Week, the Northern California Water Association (NCWA) convened its groundwater management task force this week to help coordinate the various Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) in the Sacramento Valley and to advance groundwater sustainability throughout the region. 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Groundwater session added to April 22-23 virtual Water 101 workshop

Learn from top water experts at our annual Water 101 Workshop about the history, hydrology and law behind California water as well as hot topics such as water equity, the Delta and flows, new federal administration and more. This year’s workshop, set for April 22-23, will be held virtually and feature a presentation devoted solely to groundwater.

Aquafornia news High Country News

Energy companies have left Colorado with billions of dollars in oil and gas cleanup

When an oil or gas well reaches the end of its lifespan, it must be plugged. If it isn’t, the well might leak toxic chemicals into groundwater and spew methane, carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere for years on end. … There are nearly 60,000 unplugged wells in Colorado in need of this treatment — each costing $140,000 on average, according to the Carbon Tracker, a climate think tank, in a new report that analyzes oil and gas permitting data. Plugging this many wells will cost a lot —more than $8 billion, the report found.

Aquafornia news NRDC

Blog: California proposes to transition away from toxic pesticides

California’s Governor broke new ground this year when he committed to “transition away from harmful pesticides.” His budget proposal to update fees charged on pesticide sales would generate new funding that could be used to offer better protections for farm workers, agricultural communities, and vulnerable ecosystems, as well as help farmers adopt more sustainable practices. … Pesticides remain a widespread drinking water contaminant, particularly in rural areas, and exposure to these pesticides has been linked to increased vulnerability to COVID-19.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

Some California water well permits require environmental review

Proposed water wells in California don’t all require environmental review under state and local permit laws, but state standards governing well location will sometimes require local governments to make discretionary decisions, triggering such a look, a state appellate court said. The California Environmental Quality Act requires discretionary decisions—those that require an agency to exercise judgment in deciding whether to approve a project—to undergo an environmental review. 

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation selects Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency grant recipients totaling $1.65 million

The Bureau of Reclamation announced the selection of Semitropic Water Storage District and Bard Water District as the two recipients of the Agricultural Water Use Efficiency Grant Program for fiscal year 2020. Combined with Natural Resources Conservation Service support and local cost-share contributions, approximately $5 million in water efficiency improvement projects will be implemented during the next two years. The AWUE program works with NRCS to promote district-level improvements to increase on-farm water use efficiency and conservation projects. Reclamation is funding the two projects with NRCS support.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Plan to allow thousands of California oil wells approved

A plan to fast-track drilling of thousands of new oil and gas wells over the next 15 years in California’s prime oil patch was approved Monday by Kern County officials over objections by environmental groups….The ordinance came up for discussion as the industry faces challenges from lawmakers as well as ever-present opposition from environmental groups for creating air and water pollution and significant contributions to climate change.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news University of Miami

Blog: Should water be traded as a commodity?

In times of drought, California’s Central Valley is full of farmers hindered by the lack of water. And this region, where the bulk of the nation’s fruits and vegetables are cultivated, is driving up the demand for water. Although many farmers without easy access to water often buy and pump it in from their neighbors, droughts often fuel massive price increases. And this often makes water so cost-prohibitive that it can discourage farmers from even planting crops. This predicament led a firm to recently list water as the newest commodity on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Now, water futures are traded daily. This helps farmers lock in a price for water, so they have a cushion if a drought threatens their crop revenues.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Managing water and crops with groundwater salinity – A growing menace

Salinity is an eventual threat to agriculture and groundwater sustainability in parts of California, and other irrigated parts of the world. Irrigation, lower groundwater levels, and natural conditions have dramatically increased groundwater salinity in parts of California over the last 150 years. Nearly two million tons of salt accumulates per year in the San Joaquin Valley (CV-SALTS), where 250,000 acres of irrigated land have been fallowed, 1.5 million acres are potentially salt-impaired (Great Valley Center 2005), with $1.2 – $2.2 billion/year losses by 2030 without management. 

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Plan to allow thousands of California oil wells faces vote

After a state appeals court blocked Kern County’s effort to speed up new oil and gas drilling, officials overseeing the state’s prime oil patch have revised an ordinance that could permit tens of thousands of new wells over the next 15 years. The Kern County Board of Supervisors is poised to vote Monday on the plan that would streamline the permitting process by creating a blanket environmental impact report for drilling as many as 2,700 wells a year. … The county hasn’t been able to issue permits in a year and the industry is facing challenges from lawmakers as well as environmental groups for creating air and water pollution and for significant contributions to climate change.

Aquafornia news HortiDaily

Blog: Will California remain leader in U.S. agricultural production?

[A] new 18-chapter book, written by agricultural economists at UC Davis, UC Berkeley and UC Riverside, addresses issues such as labor, water, climate and trade that affect all of California agriculture. … Water, climate and trade pose challenges and opportunities for California agriculture. In the last decade, water scarcity and decreased water quality, along with regulations to address these issues like the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, have prompted farmers to use scarce water to irrigate more valuable crops, as with the switch from cotton to almonds. 

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Dozens of environmental bills on California 2021 legislative agenda

California’s legislative session came to a wild ending in 2020 when the clock ran out on major bills. Key pieces of environmental legislation were among those that died on the floor, and conservationists are hoping 2021 brings a different story….Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, [proposed a climate resiliency bond that] would include $240 million for Salton Sea restoration, $250 million for groundwater management and $300 million for grants for clean and reliable drinking water.

Aquafornia news Well+Good

Unsafe drinking water is a wellness issue

When Malini Ranganathan, PhD, an associate professor at American University and interim faculty director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center, conducted research in Exeter, a flourishing agriculture town in California’s Central Valley, she didn’t expect to see similar conditions to what she’d witnessed in India’s low-income housing areas. Residents in one of the world’s richest states were depending on bore water and water tankers to drink because tap water was unsafe. 

Aquafornia news Navajo Times

Diné leaders: Haaland good for Navajo

One of the first two Native American women to be elected to Congress, Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) is well on her way to being confirmed as the first Native American to serve as secretary of the Interior. Last week, Haaland went before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for her confirmation hearing in which she answered questions for two days. Today the committee will host a business meeting to consider the nomination of Haaland and members can vote in person or by proxy.

Aquafornia news The (Vacaville) Reporter

Online public meeting planned to discuss groundwater sustainability

A part of the natural water cycle, groundwater is an important element of California’s water supply, especially in the Central Valley, where one in four people rely on it entirely. It is an especially important resource in the Solano Subbasin, a geographic area that includes Dixon, parts of Vacaville, Elmira, Rio Vista, unincorporated Winters, Davis, the Montezuma Hills, Isleton, Sherman Island and Walnut Grove. And every quarter, the Solano Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agency Collaborative, aka the Solano Collaborative, hosts a Community Advisory Committee meeting and will so again from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday. 

Aquafornia news Sierra Club Angeles Chapter

Blog: Sierra Club looks to build on successful efforts to make water agencies more diverse and progressive

Water may be life, but most residents of Southern California do not often reflect on the complex series of canals, pumps, and pipelines that connect where they live to water sources like the Colorado River, the Sierras, or the numerous water basins under LA County. Even less appreciated is the role water districts play in combining water sources, treating our water, and distributing it. Major water districts influence water quality and rates. They decide how to meet future water needs in an era of drought and climate change. These agencies determine if your water comes from sustainable local sources like conservation and recycling or from desert-damaging water mining projects like Cadiz. 

Aquafornia news The Log

Fast facts: Unarmored three-spine stickleback, Southern California’s small, endangered fish

Southern California’s unarmored three-spine stickleback has made headlines periodically, most recently over a lawsuit that was filed on Jan. 18 by the Center for Biological Diversity against the Trump Administration for allegedly failing to take measures to protect the endangered fish. What is the three-spine stickleback and what is going on with the fish? … The unarmored three-spine stickleback was listed as endangered in 1970 under the precursor to today’s Endangered Species Act. Critical habitat was proposed for the species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1980, but never designated. 

Aquafornia news Kenwood Press News

Four new groundwater monitoring wells

While the county’s Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) has been monitoring groundwater through residential and commercial wells volunteered for the program since 2017, four new wells specifically designed to capture a broad range of information will soon be expanding the available data. The Sonoma Valley Fire District approved the installation of the first of four new groundwater monitoring wells on a small piece of their property on Felder Road, just off Arnold Drive. It is expected to be producing results by this year.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Monday Top of the Scroll: ‘It’s a toxic blend’: where the kids are warned not to swallow the bath water

An invisible line splits the rural road of Avenue 416 in California’s Tulare county, at the point where the nut trees stretch east toward the towering Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance. On one side of the line, residents have clean water. On the other side, they do not. On the other side lies East Orosi, an unincorporated community of about 700 where children grow up learning to never open their eyes or mouths while they shower. They know that what comes out of their faucets may harm them, and parents warn they must not swallow when they brush their teeth. They spend their lives sustaining themselves on bottled water while just one mile down Avenue 416, the same children they go to school with in the community of Orosi can drink from their taps freely and bathe without a second thought.

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Thousands of native plants placed near Sacramento River

The organization River Partners teamed up with California State Parks and Butte County Resource Conservation District on Thursday to host a flood plain restoration and reforestation event. The event was called the Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park Riparian Restoration Project and was held near the Pine Creek Access point of the Sacramento River in Chico.

Aquafornia news Eureka Times-Standard

Eureka council to consider letter addressing water quality concerns

The Eureka City Council is set to consider a letter from the mayor to the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control, a subdivision of the California Environmental Protection Agency, regarding a potential water contamination hazard. The letter is on the agenda for the March 2 meeting as a consent calendar item. 

Aquafornia news Sierra Club Angeles Chapter

Blog: Climate change creating enormous challenges

The Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD) is the largest groundwater agency in the State of California, managing and protecting local groundwater resources for over four million residents. WRD’s service area covers a 420-square-mile region of southern Los Angeles County, the most populated county in the United States. The 43 cities in the service area, including a portion of the City of Los Angeles, use about 215,000 acre-feet (70 billion gallons) of groundwater annually which accounts for about half of the region’s potable water supply.

Aquafornia news Far Eastern Agriculture

Follow the Food: Can agriculture overcome its own water problems?

For centuries, farmers have found ingenious ways of making the best of the water available, but access to fresh water is becoming more and more unpredictable. Extreme weather events and drought is as much of a threat, as flash flooding in farms and food producers. … In California’s Central Valley, a region that produces a quarter of the USA’s food and relies mostly on water pumped from underground, to irrigate the crops, is fast running out of its water supply. 

Aquafornia news Santa Cruz Sentinel

Santa Cruz, Soquel Creek water propose extending supply sharing pilot program

The Santa Cruz City Council is poised to approve a 5-year extension between the City and Soquel Creek Water Districts on a pilot program that would funnel excess surface water to Soquel Creek during winter months, in hopes of bolstering overdrawn groundwater supply there. That surface water, on average, is projected to be around 115 million gallons delivered by Santa Cruz Water to Soquel Creek during the wet season, which would take strain off pumping the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Basin. 

Aquafornia news Association of California Water Agencies

News Release: MAGSA awarded $10 million grant to expand On-Farm Recharge Project

The McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA), a Groundwater Sustainability Agency in the Central Valley’s Kings Subbasin, has been awarded a $10 million grant by the State Water Resources Control Board through the Prop 1 Stormwater Grant Program to expand the existing McMullin On-Farm Recharge (OFR) Project located near Helm in Fresno County.  The Project is identified in MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan and is a key element in a vision developed by MAGSA to achieve groundwater sustainability under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) through innovative approaches in groundwater banking and crediting.

Aquafornia news The Signal

SCV Water announces extension to comment period, second public meeting

The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency has extended its public comment period for the Saugus Formation Aquifer to March 19, with the addition of a second virtual public meeting. The meeting is expected to provide community members with an additional opportunity to learn more about how the agency is keeping its water safe for drinking water consumption through minimizing and reducing the public health and environmental effects of hazardous substances that have been identified in the aquifer, as well as treatments that could allow several wells to return to service.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Groundwater salinization in California’s Tulare Lake basin, the ABCSAL model

Lower groundwater levels can prevent drainage of water and salts from a basin and increase aquifer salinity that eventually renders the groundwater unsuitable for use as drinking water or irrigation without expensive desalination. Pauloo et al. (2021)  demonstrate this process for the Tulare Lake Basin (TLB) of California’s Central Valley. Even if groundwater pumping does not cause overdraft, it can cause hydrologic basin closure leading to progressive salinization that will not cease until the basin is opened by allowing natural or engineered exits for groundwater and dissolved salt. The process, “Anthropogenic Basin Closure and Groundwater Salinization (ABCSAL)”, is driven by human water management. 

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California lawmakers propose ban on fracking by 2027

New legislation would ban all fracking in California by 2027, taking aim at the powerful oil and gas industry in a state already planning to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. … Environmental groups say [fracking] can cause significant harm to air quality and water supplies.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Canadian utility proposes Salinas Valley desal project

A large Canada-based utility service company has unveiled a proposal to construct and operate a Moss Landing desalination plant using brackish water from wells at the mouth of the Salinas Valley. According to a Jan. 28 presentation by Liberty Utilities official Kim Adamson, the proposal calls for a desal plant capable of producing up to 32,000 acre-feet of drinking water per year at a cost of about $1,000 to $1,500 per acre-foot for Salinas, Castroville and Marina, and perhaps even eventually the Monterey Peninsula. 

Aquafornia news Long Beach Post News

Long Beach to build new groundwater treatment facility in upper Westside

The Long Beach Water Department approved an agreement this month to acquire two properties near an existing well site in West Long Beach as it aims to build a new potable water treatment facility that would treat groundwater there. 

Aquafornia news AgNet West

Ag lender perspective on water futures and groundwater trading

Water futures and groundwater trading was the central focus of the most recent meeting of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture. Several panelists and speakers weighed in on how a water trade system like that would impact farmers and ranchers. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Double blast of lawsuits fired at proposed Kern groundwater bank

A major water banking proposal northwest of Bakersfield that won coveted Proposition 1 funding in 2018, was hit by two lawsuits earlier this month, one claiming it is nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing intent on selling Kern River water to southern California. The City of Bakersfield and the Kern County Water Agency filed separate complaints Feb. 2 against the Kern Fan Groundwater Storage Project seeking to have the project’s recently approved environmental impact report deemed inadequate. … 

Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

City of St. Helena reaches agreement with water watchdog group

The City of St. Helena has agreed to monitor local groundwater levels and stream flows, averting a potential lawsuit from an environmental advocacy group. Following months of negotiations, the city and Water Audit California released a joint statement Friday announcing the city will collect monthly water levels and annual extraction totals for local wells and provide a public, “scientifically useful” summary of the data. The city will conduct a comprehensive review of its water system, develop new protocols for using the city’s own Stonebridge wells, and work with Water Audit on the installation of new stream gauges along the Napa River, York Creek and Sulphur Creek. 

Aquafornia news Bakersfield.com

Local ag looks to spotlight its climate-friendly profile

The Kern County Farm Bureau issued a “call to action” this week asking local growers and ranchers to participate in a series of upcoming meetings that will influence the role California’s agricultural lands will be expected to play, or continue to play, in fighting climate change.

Aquafornia news AZ Central

Bills to safeguard groundwater in rural Arizona face opposition

On sunbaked farmlands where alfalfa and corn grow alongside pistachio orchards and grapevines, pumps hum as wells draw water from underground and send it flowing to fields. The agriculture business around Willcox depends entirely on groundwater. And groundwater here, like most other rural areas across Arizona, remains entirely unregulated.

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Aquafornia news Ag Information Network of the West

Understanding the water consumption of treenut orchards

Tools such a SWIIM–which stands for Sustainable Water and Innovative Irrigation Management–provides a new standard in water measurement that allows growers to receive an accurate accounting of the water both delivered and consumed by their orchards. … And, of course we are talking about SGMA, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: To counter the worsening drought, California needs healthy soils

California is in the early stages of a severe multi-decadal drought, exacerbated by the climate crisis. As Dan Walters pointed out in his recent commentary, we must move quickly to prepare for water shortages and wildfires. A potent strategy to improve the state’s water storage capacity involves an ancient technology so ubiquitous that it is often overlooked: soil. The urgency of California’s drought and wildfire risks require that we invest in soil health now.
-Written by Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center, and Torri Estrada, executive director of the Carbon Cycle Institute.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Water wars heat up in California

Water makes the world go ‘round, and a major player in California’s breadbasket doesn’t want to part with more than they have already. The city of Bakersfield, and the Kern County Water Agency are suing nearby water districts over their plan to skim water from Kern County sources for transport to other parts of the state — water that county officials say they need for themselves. The Kern Fan Groundwater Storage Project is a $246 million dollar water storage project planned for California’s south San Joaquin Valley. 

Aquafornia news Pasadena Now

Opinion: Till the well runs dry – Pasadena’s devastating water plan

As long as people have lived in Pasadena, water has been an essential element for the life-style, health and economy of our region. Now, however, Pasadena faces a severe water crisis. This never has been an easy need to resolve, but population, growth and climate change have made the development of a sustainable or resilient water program an even greater necessity for the future. It’s not just a challenge for Pasadena, but also for all of California, and even the nation.
-Written by Tim Brick, the Managing Director of the Arroyo Seco Foundation.  

Aquafornia news Sacramento Business Journal

Cascadian Farm supports Nature Conservancy’s water research

An organic food company has committed $750,000 to studying a sustainable farming strategy in the Sacramento Valley. Cascadian Farm, a manufacturer of cereal, granola, granola bars and frozen vegetables, announced the partnership with The Nature Conservancy last week. The money will fund a trial on a strategy that could turn working farmland into wildlife habitat, regenerate groundwater and reduce flood risk.

Aquafornia news Ventura County Star

Study shows no major oil contamination found in Oxnard Plain water

A new study shows petroleum-related and other gases present in groundwater overlying an oil field on the Oxnard Plain, as well as unanswered questions about gases in five water wells, but no widespread contamination of the water supply. State and county officials said they are reviewing the 66-page report by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey before determining what, if any, future actions should be taken. The study confirmed what scientists suspected two years ago after finding petroleum-related gases in water wells but adds new details. 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Building resilience for cities and farms with water partnerships

Moving from competition to cooperation can help solve water problems facing farms in the San Joaquin Valley and cities in Southern California, and better prepare both for a changing climate. At a virtual event last week, PPIC research fellow Alvar Escriva-Bou summarized a new PPIC report showing how cooperative investments in new supplies and water-sharing agreements can help address both regions’ needs.

Aquafornia news NPR

Near coasts, rising seas could also push up long-buried toxic contamination

For many Bay Area residents who live near the water’s edge, little-publicized research indicates groundwater rising beneath their feet could start to manifest in 10-15 years, particularly in low-lying communities like Oakland. And that could resurface toxic substances that have lingered for years underground.

Aquafornia news CSR Wire

News Release: Cascadian farm commits $750,000 to The Nature Conservancy to rebuild wildlife habitat and restore groundwater on farmland in the Sacramento Valley

Cascadian Farm, a pioneering brand in the organic movement, announced its commitment of $750,000 to The Nature Conservancy to help rebuild farmland in California’s Sacramento Valley. The two-year investment will focus on partnering with farmers to rebuild wildlife habitat and regenerate groundwater on more than 25 million square feet, equal to 600 acres of farmland, in this key sourcing region for the brand.

Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

After a resignation, Marina Coast Water District seeks applicants to fill a partial term

Marina Coast Water District is small but influential in local water issues, caught in the middle on various politically fraught issues.  For one, the water district—which is adjacent to California American Water’s service area, but not in it—has long been an antagonist to Cal Am. The one-time partners on a now-defunct desalination project have been embroiled in litigation over that former project for years. And Marina Coast has been an outspoken leader in opposition to Cal Am’s more recent proposed desalination project, fighting it since the earliest steps. 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation's Western Water

Monday Top of the Scroll: In the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, two groundwater sustainability agencies try to find their balance

Across a sprawling corner of southern Tulare County snug against the Sierra Nevada, a bounty of navel oranges, grapes, pistachios, hay and other crops sprout from the loam and clay of the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater helps keep these orchards, vineyards and fields vibrant and supports a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy across the valley. But that bounty has come at a price. Overpumping of groundwater has depleted aquifers, dried up household wells and degraded ecosystems. The land is literally sinking…

Western Water By Gary Pitzer

Groundwater Management Requirements Spark Innovative Approaches to Reach Sustainability
A 'Craigslist' for water, flooding farms to feed the aquifer, and turning farmland into habitat to aid wildlife and groundwater

An example of a water-trading platform in Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District in Kern County.

The San Joaquin Valley has a big hill to climb in reaching groundwater sustainability. Driven by the need to keep using water to irrigate the nation’s breadbasket while complying with California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, people throughout the valley are looking for innovative and cost-effective ways to manage and use groundwater more wisely. Here are three examples.

Western Water By Gary Pitzer

Explainer: The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: The Law, The Judge And The Enforcer

The Resource

A groundwater pump in the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater provides about 40 percent of the water in California for urban, rural and agricultural needs in typical years, and as much as 60 percent in dry years when surface water supplies are low. But in many areas of the state, groundwater is being extracted faster than it can be replenished through natural or artificial means.

In the Heart of the San Joaquin Valley, Two Groundwater Sustainability Agencies Try to Find Their Balance
WESTERN WATER SPECIAL REPORT: Agencies in Fresno, Tulare counties pursue different approaches to address overdraft and meet requirements of California’s groundwater law

Flooding permanent crops seasonally, such as this vineyard at Terranova Ranch in Fresno County, is one innovative strategy to recharge aquifers.Across a sprawling corner of southern Tulare County snug against the Sierra Nevada, a bounty of navel oranges, grapes, pistachios, hay and other crops sprout from the loam and clay of the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater helps keep these orchards, vineyards and fields vibrant and supports a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy across the valley. But that bounty has come at a price. Overpumping of groundwater has depleted aquifers, dried up household wells and degraded ecosystems.

Aquafornia news Redlands Community News

Plunge Creek project recharges groundwater and creates a new home for the kangaroo rat

The San Bernardino kangaroo rat and the Santa Ana River woolly star thrive in areas with frequent flooding. But decades of mining — and the construction of ditches, pipeline crossings, levees and a bridge — had cut off water flow and made their environment unlivable.

Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

The Monterey Peninsula’s water shortage could be solved with flow from the Salinas River. Why isn’t it?

In the driest years for Monterey County, the water available in the Salinas River is not enough to supply a single household. In the wettest year of the past three decades, 1995, there were 100,000 acre-feet of water available, more than the total urban usage in the county. Although the flow fluctuates wildly, the average amount is far more than what is needed, for example, for thirsty coastal cities desperate for housing. The water has been available for decades – the right to use it is protected, encouraged and even required by state law – but it’s been flowing into the ocean, a casualty of Monterey County’s political deadlock.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Friday Top of the Scroll: California drought still looms despite latest ‘atmospheric river’

Six years ago, in the middle of a crippling drought, Californians were ordered to let their lawns turn yellow. They put buckets in their showers to conserve. Scofflaws had to attend “drought school.” Meanwhile, farmers throughout the Central Valley had to idle many of their fields. This week’s deluge left many Californians shoveling snow and splashing through puddles as an “atmospheric river” swept the state. More precipitation is in the forecast for next week. But experts worry that without repeated downpours over the next two months, the painful memories of the last drought could become reality again. 

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Aquafornia news Eco-Business

Extreme drought and fire risk may double by 2060

As climate change threatens a doubling of the impact of extreme drought and fire within a generation, researchers are uncovering the influence of human activity on both these growing risks. One study has found that human numbers exposed to the hazard of extreme drought are likely to double in the decades to come, as global heating bakes away the groundwater and limits annual snowfall. 

Aquafornia news AgAlert

Farmers’ planting plans hinge on water, pandemic

As California farmers weigh decisions on what to plant and how much, lack of rainfall so far this winter has further clouded a 2021 crop outlook already complicated by market uncertainties created by the pandemic. With current precipitation levels looking even drier than the 2014-15 drought years, Kings County farmer Brian Medeiros said he’s already making decisions about what ground to fallow. 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Budgeting for agricultural sustainability and resiliency

Governor Newsom’s proposed budget includes funds for agricultural programs designed to build climate resilience and support farmers’ financial resilience and water security. We talked to Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) about progress on such programs, and what’s on the horizon.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Delano’s “big dig”

The state’s new groundwater law has prompted a lot of dirt movement in the Central Valley. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act passed in 2014 mandates that overdrafted water basins get their aquifers in balance — don’t pump out more than goes back in — by 2040. In order to get there without massive farmland fallowing, most valley water managers have been adding as many acres of recharge ground as possible. The Delano-Earlimart Irrigation District has been particularly aggressive.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Kings River floodwater dispute goes to the state

A bid by Kern County farmers to take Kings River floodwater officially got underway Tuesday as state regulators hashed out procedures and next steps with the various parties. An initial hearing had been set for April 15, but may now be pushed back to July, depending on how Administrative Hearing Officer Nicole Kuenzi rules. 

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Aquafornia news KHTS

SCV water seeks public input on removal of hazardous material in water wells

The Santa Clarita Water Agency (SCV Water) is asking for the public’s input on the Engineering Evaluation Cost Analysis (EE/CA) of removing perchlorate and volatile substances from the Saugus Formation Aquifer, officials said Tuesday. As part of this effort, SCV Water is seeking input on the removal of these substances during a 30-day public comment period from Jan. 26 to Feb. 24, 2021, according to officials. The public is invited to review and comment …

Aquafornia news Escalon Times

Plans call for raising Los Vaqueros Reservoir dam height

An expansion project [at Los Vaqueros Reservoir] started in 2010 and completed in 2012 raised the dam height 34 feet to 224 feet. It increased the storage capacity 60 percent to 160,000 square feet. It also expanded recreational uses and stepped up habitat protection. The surface covers 1,400 acres and has an elevation at capacity is 524 feet. Los Vaqueros is also where the next significant increase in California reservoir storage could be in place by 2028. The $915 million project will raise the dam 55 feet to 273 feet. It would increase storage from 160,000 acre feet to 275,000 acre feet.

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Opinion: In defense of Marina Coast Water District

As a resident of Marina and the president of the Board of Directors of Marina Coast Water District, I feel it is very important to correct inaccurate statements provided by former Congressman Sam Farr. Yes, MCWD has needed to expend legal fees in the past few years; however, the bulk of those fees are to protect our precious water source from California American Water. Cal Am seeks to construct a desalination plant that will degrade our sole water supply source, groundwater… 
-Written by Jan Shriner, president of the Marina Coast Water District board of directors.

Aquafornia news Environmental Defense Fund

Blog: How oil & gas states did (and did not) protect land and water in 2020

More than 30 states actively regulate oil and gas development with a variety of practices and rules designed to reduce health, safety and environmental impacts. … Colorado approved new, nation-leading well integrity rules designed to prevent oil and gas wells from leaking methane to the atmosphere, befouling groundwater resources and causing explosions that can harm workers and communities. 

Aquafornia news State Water Resources Control Board

News Release: State Water Boards adopts new rule for winery wastewater processing and discharging

The State Water Resources Control Board adopted a general order for how wastewater is processed and discharged at winery locations in an ongoing effort to safeguard groundwater and surface water from wastewater discharges. The order protects groundwater and surface water quality while giving wineries the flexibility to select compliance methods that best fit their site-specific situation, including tiering the compliance requirements to the winery size and associated threat to water quality. 

Aquafornia news California Department of Conservation

News Release: Department of Conservation awards $1.5m in grants to support state’s groundwater management plan

The California Department of Conservation (DOC) today announced five watershed coordinator grants totaling $1.5 million to support regional sustainable groundwater management goals. The grants will go to organizations around the state within medium- and high-priority groundwater basins.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Foundation resources help you understand groundwater’s vital role in California
Special report on groundwater coming soon

To help you learn more about the importance of groundwater, the Water Education Foundation has an array of educational materials on this vital resource. And next week, the Foundation’s online magazine, Western Water news, will publish a special report examining how two local groundwater agencies are taking different approaches to achieve sustainability in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the most critically overdrafted regions in the state.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Water games: Madera farmers set to test market

Madera County farmers are getting ready to play what could be the “game” of their livelihoods. The county groundwater sustainability agency will launch a groundwater market simulation, or game, next month as a way for growers to see if selling and trading their groundwater helps make the most of what will become a severely limited resource in coming years.

Aquafornia news Colusa Sun Herald

Virtual workshop planned about Well Monitoring Pilot Program

The Colusa and Glenn Groundwater Authorities will host an online workshop about a Well Monitoring Pilot Program the agencies are implementing.  The voluntary, non-regulatory program will gather information about groundwater use in the Colusa Subbasin while also providing participants with near-real time access to information on well production and groundwater levels at their wells, according to a press release. 

Aquafornia news Wired

The ongoing collapse of the world’s aquifers

A booming agricultural industry in the state’s San Joaquin Valley, combined with punishing droughts, led to the over-extraction of water from aquifers. Like huge, empty water bottles, the aquifers crumpled, a phenomenon geologists call subsidence. By 1970, the land had sunk as much as 28 feet in the valley, with less-than-ideal consequences for the humans and infrastructure above the aquifers. … All over the world—from the Netherlands to Indonesia to Mexico City—geology is conspiring with climate change to sink the ground under humanity’s feet.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: After COVID-19, drought threat still looms

California is enveloped in balmy weather that’s more like spring than mid-winter — and that’s not a good thing. We have seen only scant rain and snow this winter, indicating that the state may be experiencing one of its periodic droughts and adding another layer of crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession. The all-important Sierra snowpack, California’s primary source of water, is scarcely half of what is deemed a normal depth.
-Written by Dan Walters, CalMatters columnist.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Water partnerships between cities and farms would help prepare for a changing climate

San Joaquin Valley farms and Southern California cities are facing different but equally daunting water challenges.  For Valley farmers, the requirement to achieve groundwater sustainability in coming years has heightened interest in expanding water supplies to reduce the need to fallow irrigated farmland. For Southern California, falling demands since the early 2000s have reduced water stress during normal and wet years, but a warming climate makes future droughts a major concern. Both regions’ water futures could be more secure if they jointly developed and managed some water supplies.
-Written by Alvar Escriva-Bou, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California 

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Water resources managers in the Sacramento Valley are preparing for a dry year

While they remain hopeful the rest of winter will provide much more rain and snow, water resources managers in the Sacramento Valley are preparing for the potential for a dry year. While the prospect of a dry year is always jarring and challenging, we have confidence in the experience and knowledge that our water resources managers gained in 2014-15, and the strategies this region has implemented since that time to prepare for a dry year.

Aquafornia news Association of California Water Agencies

Blog: Gearing up for long-term water use efficiency

If 2020 taught us anything, it is that ACWA member agencies are highly skilled at delivering essential services to their customers even during the most unexpected and unprecedented times. As we gear up for the new year, our members continue to impress with their collaborative and coordinated efforts on vital issues affecting California water management, including the implementation of additional long-term water use efficiency strategies to increase resiliency in dry years. 

Aquafornia news BenitoLink

Assemblymembers Robert Rivas and Rudy Salas introduce legislation to maximize benefits of Sustainable Groundwater Management requirements

On Jan. 15, State Assemblymembers Robert Rivas and Rudy Salas introduced Assembly Bill 252, which if approved would help alleviate the impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) on farmers and ensure that farmland taken out of production due to SGMA is reused to provide conservation, recreation, or other benefits to local communities. 

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Managing groundwater overdraft – combining crop and water decisions (without salinity)

California’s Central Valley produces much of the nation’s food, including about 40% of the country’s fruits and nuts and has the nation’s second most pumped aquifer system. Its drier southern portion, the San Joaquin Valley, has decreasing surface water supply reliability due to frequent and prolonged droughts, stricter environmental regulations, and growing competition among water users. Many farmers pump groundwater to provide their unsupplied water demand. The resulting groundwater overdraft has numerous impacts on the Valley’s agriculture and residents.

Aquafornia news Beyond Pesticides

Blog: Millions of people drinking groundwater with pesticides or pesticide degradates

 A study of groundwater that feeds public drinking water supply finds pesticides in 41% of supply wells (and a handful of freshwater springs). Two-thirds of that 41% contain pesticide compounds per se, and one-third contain pesticide degradates — compounds resulting from biotic (or abiotic) transformation of pesticides into other compounds.

Aquafornia news Arizona State University

Blog: New research director for Kyl Center focused on equity in water access

Arizona depends heavily on the Colorado River, and it is over-allocated, meaning, we collectively take more water from the system than nature puts in. To make matters worse, the Colorado River basin has been experiencing a prolonged drought of more than 20 years. When you take the longer term view, a lot of communities in Arizona are heavily dependent on fossil groundwater supplies. Once you pump them out, they’re gone forever. There are real problems looming when it comes to groundwater management and the Colorado River.

Aquafornia news Kings River Conservation District

News Release: KRCD joins over 200 organizations urging President-elect Joe Biden to address aging water infrastructure

A national coalition of over 200 agricultural organizations and urban and rural water districts urged President-elect Joe Biden and congressional leadership to address aging Western water infrastructure in any potential infrastructure or economic recovery package. Kings River Conservation District was among the organizations to sign on to the letter.

Aquafornia news UC California Naturalist

Blog: Have you heard the story of Lake Cahuilla?

The building of dams on the Colorado River has forever changed the ebb and flow, flooding, drying and renewal cycle of what was once Lake Cahuilla, changing its character and changing its name to the Salton Sea. Entrepreneurs once thought that the Salton Sea would become a sportsman’s mecca, providing fishing, boating, and waterskiing experiences like no other. There were a few decades where that dream seemed to be true. Then it wasn’t.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Clean water plans need more public involvement, activists say

The stage is finally set for years of talking to be translated into actual clean drinking water for potentially thousands of San Joaquin Valley residents. But activists fear the effort will flop before the curtain rises if more isn’t done to engage the people who are drinking that water. The issue is nitrate, which is  rife the valley’s groundwater and considered dangerous for infants and pregnant women.

Aquafornia news OOSKAnews

Human depletion of groundwater resources exacerbates climate change impacts

Large swathes of land in densely populated parts of the world are subsiding rapidly as a result of groundwater depletion. Paired with rising sea levels caused by global warming, this could place many coastal cities at risk of severe flooding by 2040.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Valley groundwater may get (small) slice of state’s $15 billion surplus

The Governor’s proposal for how to spend California’s $15 billion surplus includes $60 million in direct grants to help replenish groundwater in the valley’s most depleted basins. The measure specifies the money is to be used in “critically over-drafted basins,” which lie mostly in the San Joaquin Valley. Water managers were pleasantly surprised, but not overwhelmed, by the amount.

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

STPUD seeks input on groundwater management plan

The South Tahoe Public Utility District is seeking input as they update the groundwater management plan for the greater South Lake Tahoe area. Groundwater is the primary source of drinking water for more than 90% of the public and private water systems located throughout this area. Seeking input from beneficial uses and users of groundwater ensures the region’s Groundwater Management Plan assess current groundwater conditions, reflects local groundwater concerns and offers an appropriate long-term management plan to ensure our community has a sustainable source of clean water supply.

Aquafornia news Environmental Defense Fund

Blog: After decades of inequity, this woman is bringing long-overlooked voices to California’s land and water decisions

Vicky Espinoza is on a mission. Vicky is passionate about making sure rural, low-income communities and small-scale farmers have a say in land-use and water-management decisions in the San Joaquin Valley. 

Aquafornia news Sierra Sun Times

California Attorney General Becerra joins multistate effort to hold polluters accountable under the clean water act

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday, as part of a 12-state coalition, submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) arguing that its new draft guidance misinterprets the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund… In the comment letter, the coalition argues that the EPA’s draft guidance tips the scales in favor of polluters by providing them with additional arguments to avoid regulation under the Clean Water Act, contravenes the purpose of the Act, and conflicts with the Court’s decision in County of Maui.

Aquafornia news Local Government Commission

Blog: Saving Borrego’s lifeblood

Borrego Springs’ only viable water source is a large aquifer under Borrego Valley; it has long been accepted that the aquifer’s water collected over millennia and is being pumped at a rapid pace by recent generations. What farmers, developers, business owners, and residents never agreed upon was how much water was actually available, and how long it would last.

Aquafornia news Ventura County Star

Opinion: Ventura’s water security requires investment now

Did you know Ventura is one of the largest cities in Southern California to rely solely on local water supplies? Rainfall feeds the Ventura River, Lake Casitas, and local groundwater basins to meet all the water needs of our community. Water is at the core of our identity and the future of its security is in jeopardy. Although our community’s conservation efforts have reduced water use by 20%, Ventura’s rain-dependent water supplies remain vulnerable to future droughts.  

Aquafornia news The San Jose Mercury News

‘Fossil water’ may be vanishing from California

A dinosaur bone. The footprint of a woolly mammoth. An ancient shell imprinted on a rock in your backyard. These are the images the word “fossil” calls to mind. But, buried deep within the earth, there’s another kind of fossil you might not expect — ancient aquifers, created by rain and snow that fell more than 10,000 years ago. And unless the fossil water stores are better protected, scientists say, they may become a thing of the past. New research on fossil water from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory suggests that drinking wells that pump fossil water can’t rely on it being replenished — especially during times of drought.

Aquafornia news EurekAlert.org

New analysis highlights importance of groundwater discharge into oceans

An invisible flow of groundwater seeps into the ocean along coastlines all over the world. Scientists have tended to disregard its contributions to ocean chemistry, focusing on the far greater volumes of water and dissolved material entering the sea from rivers and streams, but a new study finds groundwater discharge plays a more significant role than had been thought.

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Aquafornia news Pasadena Now

Arroyo Seco Foundation opposes canyon project

In a letter to the city’s Hearing Officer, the Arroyo Seco Foundation said it opposes plans by the Pasadena Water and Power Department to upgrade facilities in the Upper Arroyo Seco damaged by the 2009 Station Fire. Damage to the structures has greatly reduced the city’s capacity to divert water from the Arroyo Seco for spreading and pumping.

Aquafornia news New Times San Luis Obispo

State Water Board worries Paso Robles groundwater decline will impact domestic wells

As North County water stakeholders wait for the state’s approval of a 20-year Paso Robles Groundwater Basin sustainability plan, the State Water Resources Control Board recently expressed concerns about whether that plan does enough to reverse the basin’s decline and protect domestic well users.

Aquafornia news The Grunion

Water Replenishment District’s next leader in limbo

A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the Water Replenishment District as staff, board members and the district’s attorneys try to navigate a legal minefield created by controversial attempts to hire former Carson Mayor Albert Robles as the agency’s new general manager.

Aquafornia news JD Supra

Blog: EPA muddies the water on permitting discharges to groundwater ‎and what the Biden administration will likely do about it

The EPA did issue a draft guidance memorandum relating to the County of Maui decision, notice of which was published in the Federal Register on December 10, ‎‎2020. However, instead of clarifying the seven criteria stated by the Court in County of ‎Maui or the application of those criteria, the EPA took seven and half pages to state ‎three truisms and added an additional criteria not stated in the Court’s decision ‎bringing the total number of factors to consider in determining whether a discharge to ‎ground water is the functional equivalent of a discharge to navigable waters to eight.

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette

Visalia to tighten water restrictions in March

The Visalia City Council’s last meeting was a fitting end to 2020 bringing news of an impending drought and the possibility the city’s groundwater reaching a new low. At the Dec. 21 meeting, Visalia’s water resource manager Andrew Munn told the council he was recommending the city move into Stage 2 of its water conservation ordinance on March 1, 2021 and to move into Stage 3 if the aquifer drops to a historic low. 

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette

Water authority and GSA to settle on sagging Friant-Kern Canal resolution

The Friant Water Authority cleaned up some of the most important work in the last month of the year hashing out a legal settlement with farmers in southern Tulare County. Represented by the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) farmers agreed to contribute at least $125 million to repair the significant subsidence-caused sag in the gravity-fed canal that has cut water deliveries by 60%.

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Aquafornia news Torrance Daily Breeze

Water district’s next leader in limbo following controversial attempt to hire former Carson mayor

A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the Water Replenishment District as staff, board members and the district’s attorneys try to navigate a legal minefield created by controversial attempts to hire former Carson Mayor Albert Robles as the agency’s new general manager.

Aquafornia news Torrance Daily Breeze

In abrupt shift, water board rejects $275,000 GM contract for former Carson mayor

The board of the Water Replenishment District rejected a controversial proposal to hire former Carson Mayor Albert Robles as its interim general manager in a stunning turn when one of his supporters, and then another, left the meeting without explanation.

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn

Blog: USEPA issues draft guidance to clarify the U.S. Supreme Court’s Maui Decision

On December 8, 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued draft guidance intended to clarify when a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is required under the Clean Water Act (Act) based upon the recent United States Supreme Court ruling in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund (Maui).  This guidance is important for public agencies and other entities that make point source discharges to groundwater that reach waters of the United States. 

Aquafornia news Law360

Electronics maker to pay $3.5m in water contamination case

Ametek Inc., a manufacturer of electronic instruments, has agreed to pay $3.5 million to put to bed allegations that it contaminated the groundwater of mobile home parks near a California aerospace manufacturing plant it once operated. The settlement, which received final approval from a California federal judge Tuesday, will include $1.5 million for medical consultations for the roughly 7,000-person class that says their groundwater was contaminated with the toxic chemical trichloroethylene, a solvent used in manufacturing. 

Aquafornia news New Times

San Luis Obispo County launches Arroyo Grande subbasin sustainability project

San Luis Obispo County recently launched a project aimed at developing a groundwater sustainability plan for the Arroyo Grande Subbasin and is calling for community members with wells that tap into the basin to help improve the county’s water level data. The Arroyo Grande Subbasin consists of a seven-mile stretch extending from the Lopez Dam to Highway 101 and was established as its own entity in 2019. 

Aquafornia news UC Santa Barbara

Blog: Using remote sensing to keep an eye on the trees offers an effective way to monitor groundwater along river corridors in the Southwest

Spend time in any of the world’s great forests and you’ll start seeing the trees as immense pillars holding the heavens aloft while firmly anchored in the earth. It’s as much fact as sentiment. Trees really do link the ground to the sky by exchanging energy and matter between the soil and the atmosphere. Researchers believe that understanding this connection could provide both a wealth of scientific insight into ecosystems and practical applications that address challenges such as water resource conservation and management.

Aquafornia news KQED

Groundwater beneath your feet is rising with the sea. It could bring long-buried toxins with it

Rising seas can evoke images of waves crashing into beachfront property or a torrent of water rolling through downtown streets. But there’s a lesser-known hazard of climate change for those who live along shorelines the world over: freshwater in the ground beneath them creeping slowly upward. For many Bay Area residents who live near the water’s edge, little-publicized research indicates the problem could start to manifest in 10-15 years, particularly in low-lying communities like those in Oakland, Alameda and Marin City.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Proposed agreement could boost funds to fix Friant-Kern Canal

In what was hailed as a “landmark agreement,” farmers in an area of southern Tulare County blamed for sinking the Friant-Kern Canal from excessive groundwater pumping will chip in a hefty amount to help pay for a fix. How hefty could be decided by their payment choice.

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Aquafornia news JD Supra

Blog: EPA’s Clean Water Act groundwater guidance says little, will likely be rescinded

EPA’s recent draft guidance memorandum on applying the Supreme Court’s decision in County of Maui v. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund provides little clarity for determining when a release to groundwater is the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge such that it requires an NPDES permit. Instead, the guidance largely stresses how the Maui decision did not fundamentally change permitting under the Clean Water Act, while explaining how permit writers might consider system design and performance in assessing functional equivalence.

Aquafornia news Chamber Business News

Blog: ASU study reveals groundwater generates 43 percent of state GDP

A new study highlights the tremendous impact groundwater has on Arizona’s economy and underscores the need to make sure every community has tools to protect and manage it far into the future, said Todd Reeve, director of Business for Water Stewardship (BWS), which commissioned the report. 

Aquafornia news Best Best & Krieger

Blog: EPA issues guidance on groundwater releases in wake of Maui v. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published guidance on how to apply the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in County of Maui v. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund. The guidance provides some clarity as to when a discharge to groundwater is the “functional equivalent of a direct discharge from a point source into navigable waters.”

Aquafornia news AgNet West

New addition made to bilingual SGMA video series

The latest update to a video series detailing the impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) has recently been released. The bilingual SGMA video series is available on the YouTube channel CaliWaterAg.  The latest installment, Part 1.4, addresses land repurposing related to SGMA.

Aquafornia news Capital Public Radio

Friday Top of the Scroll: Much of California’s water wells are contaminated with chromium-6. Could a costly fix be coming?

California has yet to comprehensively deal with pervasive chromium-6 contamination, but that may soon change.  The State Water Resources Control Board held public workshops this week as it moves into what might be one of the final phases of the process of regulating the contaminant. They looked specifically at the costs of cleaning up the problem after the board published more data and analysis of the extent of chromium-6 contamination last week. 

Aquafornia news Arizona State University

Report: Arizona’s groundwater contributes to 43% of state GDP

Arizona State University’s Seidman Research Institute and Business For Water Stewardship released a new, first-of-its-kind report estimating the economic importance of groundwater for Arizona’s five Active Management Areas in Phoenix, Pinal, Prescott, Santa Cruz and Tuscon. The report finds that Arizona’s groundwater contributed to an annual average of 43% of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP), or $1.2 trillion to the economy over a period of nine years.

Related article:

Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Toxic tap water in Latino towns is a legacy of racist policies, California officials say

In the San Joaquin Valley, agricultural runoff from fertilizer and manure leaches into groundwater, contributing to some of the highest levels of nitrate pollution in community water systems in the country. A new report shows Latino neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by elevated levels of nitrate, which advocates say is a result of a historic pattern of racist policies at every level of government.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Science Daily

Study: Big data offers promise of better groundwater management in California

A research team has analyzed big data of more than 200,000 groundwater samples taken from across the state and found that there are problems with the guidelines used for groundwater management. Known as the ‘Base of Fresh Water’, the guidelines are close to fifty years old and don’t reflect current uses, knowledge, concerns or technologies related to managing groundwater in this coastal state with a multi-billion-dollar agricultural industry.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

New land trust focused on groundwater aims to give farmers options

Southern Tulare County farmers inching toward a cliff of groundwater restrictions that could dry up tens of thousands of acres have joined with conservationists to potentially soften their own landing and help improve wildlife habitat at the same time. At least that’s the goal of the newly formed Tule Basin and Water Conservation Trust.

Aquafornia news The Hill

EPA guidance may exempt some water polluters from Supreme Court permit mandate

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday released a draft guidance that interprets a Supreme Court decision in a way that may exempt some facilities from needing permits to pollute groundwater. The EPA’s new draft guidance says that whether a pollution discharge into groundwater should be considered a “functional equivalent” depends on “what happens to the discharged pollutant over that time and distance traveled” to the regulated body of water.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

With drought and pumping, Hopi natural springs are drying up

The Hopi have lived for thousands of years on the mesas of the Colorado Plateau. Flowing springs and seeps have sustained them, providing sources where they have collected drinking water, grown corn and beans, and maintained a spiritual connection to life-giving water.   But the springs are dwindling. Some are completely dry.